In just two weeks, my father’s house will be gone. Well, the house won’t be gone — it will still be here — but it will belong to someone else. I’ve mostly been looking at my leaving here from a practical point of view (or impractical, considering how loath I am to rent an apartment), exploring my options. As of now, I still don’t have a place to stay other than with a couple of willing/unwilling friends. (Both offered me a place to stay, but were quick to mention that it was for a short time. Even if I have to take them up on their offer, I wouldn’t stay long. That’s a surefire way of not having friends any longer!)
Last night, though, it hit me that when the new people take possession, my parents’ last earthly possession will be gone. Nothing will tie them to this life any more. Well, their descendents, of course, will always tie them to this earth, but no “thing.” No place.
And so they will be truly gone.
When a person dies, they don’t die all at once. (Even though sometimes it seems so.) First there is the clinical death where there are no more clinical signs of life. (This only means that the person has moved beyond the tools clinics use to measure life.) Then, about four minutes later, the brain begins to die and decay. Any successful resuscitations happen between these two “deaths.” (New research has shown that after clinical death, there is a surge of electrical activity in the brain before it dies, which could explain both the idea of near-death experiences and life flashing before your eyes at the time of death.)
After the brain dies, there is still cell activity and a proliferation of microbes along with various other processes. We don’t call this living. But it is still the process of dying.
Even after a person is buried or cremated, they continue to die to those left behind. Each further loss a survivor experiences seems a new phase of their death, and so it is with my father’s house. It feels as if both he and my mother have died again.
Oddly, though Jeff never visited here, it feels as if he died again too. Although I accepted long ago that I would never be going home to him, there must have been crossed fingers or a whispered “ways out” deep inside me, because most evenings now I still have a brief few minutes of grief as I remember once more that he’s gone, that I will never go home to him, that I am on my own.
And so it goes . . .
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.